Happy Death Day

Horror movies are often given a bad rap. Sneered, despised and criticized, many see it as the slums of film-making. Little do critics realize the genre’s profitability often earning more money than many over-praised dramas. Unlike other cinematic genres like westerns, horror films are still popular and show no sign of vanishing. ‘Happy Death Day’ is another in a long-line looking to earn a crust. Captivating and interesting, it will probably be slammed for being a mere horror movie but should laugh all the way to the cemetery as it screams up box office dollars.

Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is living on a university campus enjoying life. Waking up on her birthday she looks forward to a great day with friends Carter (Israel Broussard) and Lori (Ruby Modine). Evil strikes when a vicious killer ensures Tree’s birthday becomes her last. Following her death, Tree wakes up on the same day and is killed again. This pattern repeats itself until Tree figures out who is killing her and how to fight back against a killer who seems as unstoppable as her endless birthday.

Basically a horrific version of ‘Groundhog Day’, ‘Happy Death Day’ uses the ‘endless time’ concept well. Only by reliving her birthday can Tree discover the killer’s motivation and learn a few personal lessons along the way. There’s not much more to the film than that as ‘Happy Death Day’ is a generally no frills slasher flick with a cool idea. It mostly works due to Rothe’s magnetic presence and Christopher B Landon’s directorial flair.

Where ‘Happy Death Day’ comes unstuck is its lack of depth. Not every great horror movie needs massive substance, but it helps knowing character’s backgrounds which can make viewing more engaging. There are plenty of great suspects to uncover but a little more time exploring their mindset could have made for a better experience. The scares and gallows humour are mixed well with the kills becoming ‘fun’ for the ghoulishly minded.

‘Happy Death Day’ offers celebratory chills for fans to admire. It’s easy to watch with some decent performances and suitably chilling atmosphere. Horror movie critics will always be around but films like ‘Happy Death Day’ give it gloss even if it offers a birthday surprise not many would want.

Rating out of 10: 6

Blade Runner 2049

Film-makers are on a hiding for nothing if they tinker with a beloved movie. Where others have wisely let things be, several directors and producers have continued to squeeze a concept for more dollars. Creating another story from a seminal classic is a risky proposition but one that ‘Blade Runner 2049’ succeeds in doing. An equally stunning journey into a bleak universe as the original ‘Blade Runner’ in 1982, it hits well-trodden beats while forging a path uniquely its own.

LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is on a mission. After discovering a secret that could spell humanity’s extinction, K is in for a shock. When the secret leads him to Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), an agent long missing, K’s world is torn asunder. With deadly government types on their trail, K and Deckard fight for their lives. Death and destruction become their only companions in a battle to save the planet from imminent destruction.

‘Blade Runner 2049’ is a definite visual feast. Filled with amazing cinematography and superb CGI, it truly embraces its epic aims. It’s one of the few movies this year that needs to be seen in a cinema as the small screen would never capture its remarkable vistas. But its main selling point is its story which is generally involving and interesting. Given the enormous run-time of nearly 3 hours, there’s a lot of ‘breathing space’ for characterisation and plot. With some exceptions, both are mostly well handled under Denis Villeneuve’s skilful direction.

Ford and Gosling know the ropes with these types of sagas by now and make for fine heroes. Whilst ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is long, it isn’t too slow paced even if there are a few scenes that could have been cut. More frustrating are the unresolved plot threads annoyingly hinting at sequels which this movie doesn’t need. Although echoing moments from the original film, new viewers are kept up to speed with prior events. This enables the easy to follow story to be enjoyed by all without pandering to established fans.

Although having a few issues in terms of not using its huge canvas as well as it should, ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is still worth seeing. The visuals alone are astonishing and deserve to be seen on the biggest screen possible. It’s always good seeing Harrison Ford in a solid film as well with the grizzled veteran maintaining his rugged charms amidst a sea of perfectly groomed stars.

Rating out of 10: 7